In this section of the website you can search all our decisions from 1989/90 to the present. The decisions appear in descending order.
Decisions from 1994 appear in HTML. Decisions from 1989/90 to 1993 are attached as PDFs.
Four of the fields that appear at the top of individual decisions – Channel/Station, Programme, Standards, Standards Breached – have links that call up other decisions with the same information.
Please note that you will need to select specific standard/s, as well as a broadcasting code, to return decision results.
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A segment on RNZ National’s programme This Way Up, titled ‘Why Women Live Longer’, featured an interview with a science journalist about her latest book. In the introduction to the segment, the programme presenter referred to the average life expectancy of men and women in New Zealand born in 2016. Mr Golden complained to the broadcaster under the accuracy standard that the references to life expectancy did not take into account quality of life. The Authority declined to determine the complaint on the basis that it was frivolous and trivial, and concerned matters of personal preference rather than matters of broadcasting standards that can be addressed under the Radio Code.
Declined to Determine: Accuracy
A complaint from Seafood New Zealand Ltd (Seafood NZ) about an interview between Morning Report host Guyon Espiner and Dr Russell Norman of Greenpeace was not upheld. Dr Norman and Mr Espiner discussed Greenpeace’s view that the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) had been ‘captured’ by the fishing industry, and why MPI has not prosecuted anyone for under-reporting whiting catches, with reference to a leaked MPI report from 2012. While RNZ acknowledged the interview did not meet its internal editorial guidelines, as it should have at least acknowledged the views of other stakeholders, the Authority did not find any breach of broadcasting standards. The Authority found the interview was unlikely to mislead listeners as it was clear that the interview comprised Dr Norman’s and Greenpeace’s opinions and analysis. The Authority noted that, although the interview was clearly presented as being from Greenpeace’s perspective, Mr Espiner did challenge Dr Norman during the interview, and another broadcast later the same day contained comment from both Seafood NZ and MPI. The Authority emphasised the importance of holding central government departments to account in a way that is balanced and fair, and concluded that in this instance the broadcaster achieved this and did not breach broadcasting standards.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority has upheld one aspect of a complaint from three complainants about a segment of Punjabi talkback programme Panthic Vichar, broadcast on community radio station, Planet FM. During the programme, host Kuldip Singh made a number of allegations against the complainants, regarding use of grant money and cheating or ‘unjust’ behaviour at a kabaddi tournament. The Authority found that the host’s comments reflected negatively on the complainants and as such, they should have been given an opportunity to respond to the allegations. The Authority did not uphold the remaining aspects of the complaint. The Authority acknowledged the limited resources available to the broadcaster, but reminded it of its obligations under the Broadcasting Act 1989 to receive and consider formal complaints through a proper process, including where the broadcast subject to complaint is in a language other than English. The Authority did not make any orders.
Upheld: Fairness. Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy, Privacy. No Order.
The Authority has not upheld complaints from 20 complainants about a segment of Punjabi talkback programme, Bhakhde Masley. During the programme, the host questioned the teachings of a deceased Sikh religious figure by posing hypothetical questions about how he and his widow, now also deceased, had children. The host implied that, given the leader’s teachings about celibacy, his widow and other family members must have had sex with animals. The complainants alleged that this discussion breached the privacy of the individuals referred to, and was degrading and humiliating. The Authority acknowledged that the segment was in poor taste, but found that the broadcast was not in breach of the standards raised by the complainants. The individuals referred to were either deceased (so the privacy standard could not apply) or lived overseas, making it difficult to assess the harm that could have been caused. The discussion was ultimately hypothetical and was not intended to be taken literally. The Authority noted that the right to freedom of expression comes with responsibilities by those who exercise it, and it is clear that this broadcast caused offence and significant division within the Sikh community in New Zealand. On this occasion, however, the Authority could not uphold the complaints based on the particular standards raised.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration
A segment on the George FM Saturday Drive Show featured an announcer making comments about the complainant regarding an incident in the past, where the announcer allegedly saw the complainant engaging in certain activities. The broadcaster upheld the complaint under the privacy and fairness standards and issued written apologies to the complainant. The complainant referred the complaint to the Authority on the basis the broadcast also breached the accuracy standard and the apologies did not address the alleged inaccuracies in the broadcast. The Authority did not uphold the accuracy complaint, finding that, due to the nature of the broadcast and audience expectations, the Saturday Drive Show did not amount to ‘news, current affairs or factual programming’ to which the accuracy standard applied. The Authority noted that while the broadcasting standard raised did not apply, there may be alternative avenues for the complainant to have the concerns expressed in the complaint considered.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
An item on Nine to Noon featured a discussion of the appointment of former NZ Super Fund Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Adrian Orr, as Reserve Bank Governor. During the segment, an RNZ business commentator raised the subject of Mr Orr’s potential replacement as NZ Super Fund CEO, citing Matt Whineray, current acting NZ Super Fund CEO, as a logical replacement. The commentator stated that Mr Whineray had been NZ Super Fund Chief Investment Officer (CIO) for ‘nearly ten years’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this statement was inaccurate because Mr Whineray was appointed CIO in 2014. The Authority found that, as Mr Whineray’s professional experience was only raised briefly in the broadcast, the commentator’s incorrect statement was unlikely to significantly affect the audience’s understanding of the segment as a whole. The complainant also submitted that the broadcast omitted information, which contributed to its inaccuracy as a whole, however the Authority considered these were issues of editorial discretion and personal preference, and were outside the Authority’s jurisdiction.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
During the talkback programme, Overnighter, host Garry McAlpine invited listeners to call in to discuss the issues facing New Zealand in 2018, one of which was the upcoming cannabis referendum. Mr McAlpine strongly expressed his view, throughout the programme, that cannabis should be decriminalised for medicinal and recreational use. A number of callers, including the complainant, expressed their views on the subject, with some supportive of, and others opposed to, Mr McAlpine’s views. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this programme was in breach of broadcasting standards. Talkback radio is known for robust discussion, and broadcasting standards recognise that it is an opinionated environment, with hosts granted some latitude to be provocative and edgy in the interests of generating robust debate. This programme in particular featured genuine discussion on an important issue in New Zealand. As such, the harm alleged to have been caused by the complainant did not outweigh the host’s, or callers’, right to express their opinions as part of a talkback discussion about New Zealand’s future, even if some listeners might have disagreed or found those views distasteful.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Law and Order, Good Taste and Decency, Fairness, Programme Information, Discrimination and Denigration
A segment on Polly & Grant for Breakfast featured the hosts reading out and discussing a list of countries referred to as ‘the last places on Earth with no internet’. The list was long and included countries such as India, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Guatemala and Nicaragua. The list was evidently sourced from an online article that contained relevant information about the countries listed having internet user penetration rates of less than 20%. That information was omitted during the broadcast, and created an impression that the countries listed had no internet. The Authority nevertheless did not uphold a complaint under the accuracy standard. The Authority noted that the accuracy standard only applies to news, current affairs or factual programming and found that it did not apply to this light-hearted, entertainment-based programme. The Authority noted that, while the information broadcast was incorrect, the hosts’ discussion of the relevant countries did not contain the malice or invective required to encourage discrimination or denigration, or undermine widely shared community standards.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration
An item on Morning Report reported on and discussed the introduction of ACT MP David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill 2017 to Parliament. The broadcast featured excerpts from speeches made during the first reading of the Bill, comments from RNZ’s political commentator and an interview with Mr Seymour. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that statements made by Mr Seymour that ‘[assisted dying is] becoming normal around the world’ were inaccurate. The Authority emphasised the importance of freedom of political expression and the high threshold required to justify limiting that expression. It found that the statement complained about was clearly distinguishable as Mr Seymour’s analysis and opinion, rather than a statement of fact to which the accuracy standard applied. Additionally, alternative viewpoints on the Bill were presented during the item so listeners would not have been misled.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
An item broadcast during RNZ News reported on cycling campaigner Peter Walker’s new book, following an interview between RNZ and Mr Walker earlier that day. The item reported that helmets ‘do little to improve safety’ and are ‘stopping people from taking up cycling’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the omission of any reference to Mr Walker’s position on mandatory helmet legislation was misleading as Mr Walker is not ‘against helmets’ but rather against mandatory helmet laws. The Authority found that, while the short news item truncated a sophisticated topic and did not refer to Mr Walker’s views on mandatory helmet legislation, the ideas communicated in the news item were not materially different to the key themes communicated by Mr Walker during his earlier interview broadcast on RNZ. The Authority therefore considered that upholding the complaint would amount to an unreasonable limitation on the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
An item on Nine to Noon featured an interview with RNZ’s US Correspondent regarding recent political events in the United States, including a brief discussion of the controversy surrounding the Democratic National Party and the release of American political strategist and campaign manager Donna Brazile’s book, Hacks. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this discussion was unbalanced and misleading. The Authority noted the purpose of the item was to hear the views and analysis of RNZ’s US Correspondent on recent political events and news in the US, a small part of which referred to Ms Brazile’s book. The segment did not purport to be an in-depth examination of Ms Brazile’s book or the controversy surrounding the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Primary Election. In this context, the Authority found listeners would not have been misled or left uninformed by the omission of further details from the book and about the DNC, which the complainant wished to be included in the item.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
A segment on Nine to Noon featured an interview with Massey Professor Paul Spoonley, titled ‘The changing face of NZ’. The interview discussed increasing diversity in New Zealand and projections for population growth, as suggested by recent data released by Statistics New Zealand. During the interview, presenter Kathryn Ryan commented, ‘it’s also in some ways the argument for immigration, isn’t it, because you’re going to need workers, you’re going to need tax payers, especially as that baby boomer demographic retires, we know there’s some big issues coming up there’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this comment breached the accuracy standard, finding the comment was not a statement of fact to which the standard applied, and it would not have materially affected the audience’s understanding of the interview as a whole.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
An item on RNZ’s Midday Report bulletin reported on increases in the price of butter and dairy products, and the impact of this on small food businesses in particular. The item included the statement: ‘The demand for butter has soared worldwide since scientists debunked research linking animal fats with heart disease.’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this statement breached the balance and accuracy standards. The Authority found that, as the statement was peripheral to the focus of the item, the broadcaster was not required in the interests of balance to present alternate viewpoints on the statement, and the statement was unlikely to significantly affect the audience’s understanding of the item as a whole.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
An item on Morning Report featured an interview with a Social Policy Advisor at the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), who discussed CAB’s experience assisting the public with income support applications to Work & Income New Zealand (WINZ). The Authority did not uphold a complaint from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) that this interview was unbalanced, unfair and inaccurate. The Authority found that because of the nature of the item – which comprised a brief interview with one individual, who approached a widely reported issue from a clearly identified perspective – audiences would not have expected to hear MSD’s response to the comments made. While the interviewee’s comments were critical, MSD could expect to be subject to scrutiny, and listeners were likely to be broadly aware of MSD’s position in relation to this issue. In this context, and given the nature of the item, listeners would not have been left with an unfairly negative impression of MSD, and the broadcaster was not required to seek comment in response. Finally, it was clear that the interviewee’s comments represented her own opinion, based on the experiences of CAB clients, which were not subject to the requirements of the accuracy standard.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness, Accuracy
A segment on Morning Report discussed one Auckland individual’s challenge to Auckland Council to open a discussion about removing or altering a monument to Colonel Marmaduke Nixon in Ōtāhuhu. The item briefly summarised Colonel Nixon’s role in colonialism and in the Waikato land wars, including the invasion of Rangiaowhia. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item lacked balance and was inaccurate in its account of the events at Rangiaowhia. The Authority found the item did not purport to provide a comprehensive examination of what occurred at Rangiaowhia. Rather, the item focused on one individual’s challenge to the Council to consider removing or altering the monument. In this context, it was not required in the interests of either balance or accuracy to present alternative accounts of the historical events. The Authority noted that, following the item, alternative viewpoints were nevertheless acknowledged in further online coverage by RNZ.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
During a Gospel Hour programme on Radio Voqa Kei Viti Aotearoa, a Fijian language station, the announcer used the term ‘iTaukei’ in her greetings to listeners, which the broadcaster submitted referred to the indigenous Fijian population in New Zealand and elsewhere overseas. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the term ‘iTaukei’ meant ‘owner’ in English (and therefore referred to New Zealand Māori), and that use of this term caused division and unrest amongst the station’s Fijian listeners. The Authority found that, while the announcer’s use of the term may be seen by some as divisive and politically-charged, it was not offensive, incorrect or discriminatory to an extent that would justify the Authority intervening and finding a breach of broadcasting standards, and as a result limiting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression. The Authority however reminded the broadcaster of its obligations under the Broadcasting Act 1989 to receive and consider formal complaints through a proper process, which did not occur in this case.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Law and Order, Programme Information, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy, Privacy, Fairness
An episode of the radio documentary series, Insight, titled ‘Will cameras end commercial fish dumping’, discussed the issue of whether the quota management system (QMS) was contributing to illegal fish dumping practices in the commercial fishing industry and whether camera monitoring could be used to improve this issue. The episode featured an interview with Dr Russel Norman, the Executive Director of Greenpeace NZ, who described a camera monitoring trial run by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and undertaken by Trident Systems (Trident) and an independent research company, Archipelago. Dr Norman said that, during the trial, Archipelago found ‘lots of illegal behaviour, dumping, killing of Hector’s dolphins’, while Trident ‘found nothing’. Dr Norman then suggested that MPI awarded a contract to Trident for filming of a commercial fishery because of these results. The Authority found that, by not giving Trident the opportunity to respond to this allegation, the item was unfair. However, the Authority found that Dr Norman’s statement was based on records of the trial and on the findings of an independent inquiry into MPI’s prosecution decisions, and so his summary of those findings was not misleading or inaccurate. In the context of an item about the QMS and commercial fish dumping, the Authority found that Dr Norman’s statement, which was limited to past monitoring trials, did not amount to discussion of a controversial issue of public importance which triggered the requirements of the balance standard.
Upheld: Fairness; Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance. Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement on air and online; Section 16(1) $2,000 legal costs to complainant
A RNZ News bulletin reported on the NZ Police Association’s view that a recent spate of Police shootings was the result of ‘too many firearms getting into the wrong hands’. During the bulletin, the presenter said: ‘The Association’s President… says more than 20,000 firearms, including semi-automatic military weapons, are stolen or sold to offenders each year.’ The Authority upheld a complaint that the presenter’s reference to more than 20,000 firearms being stolen or sold to offenders was inaccurate. According to the Police Association, the President should have been quoted as saying ‘over 50,000 firearms enter the country each year, a number of which are stolen or sold to offenders’. While the broadcaster attempted to correct the quote in the online version of the story after the broadcast, the amendment did not correct the error, and in the Authority’s view RNZ’s audience was misled as a result.
During Jay-Jay, Dom & Randell, the hosts discussed their conversation with a guest the previous day who was described as a successful voice coach, and who gave tips about putting on a ‘sexy voice’. One of the hosts prank called two phone sex chat lines and spoke to the operators to see whether they used a ‘sexy voice’. One of the operators he spoke with was the complainant, who discussed practical aspects of the service, including how calls were conducted and paid for. A distinctive sound could be heard in the background of the call. The Authority upheld a complaint from the operator that this broadcast breached her privacy and was unfair. The combination of the extended audio of the complainant’s voice and the background sounds meant that she could be identified by people beyond family and close friends who would reasonably be expected to know about her phone sex chat line business. The complainant was also unaware she was being recorded and did not consent to the broadcast of this information. This resulted in a breach of her privacy and was also unfair. The Authority did not uphold the remaining aspects of BL’s complaint.
Upheld: Privacy, Fairness
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Balance, Accuracy
Orders: $2,000 privacy compensation; $1,500 costs to the Crown
An item on Checkpoint discussed the return of a child after she went missing off the coast of New Zealand with her father. Extensive media coverage reported that the pair had sailed to Australia on a catamaran and that the family was involved in a custody dispute, with proceedings pending under the Care of Children Act 2004. The item aired after the child had been located and featured an interview with the child’s mother, who discussed her fears for her daughter’s safety, and their reunion. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this item breached the child’s privacy and treated her unfairly. The information discussed during the interview was in the public domain at the time of broadcast, and the topic was treated sensitively and respectfully by the interviewer. There was also an element of public interest in the child’s welfare and her being found safe. A number of other broadcasting standards raised by the complainant were not applicable or not breached in the context of the broadcast.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Fairness, Balance, Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Accuracy
An item on RNZ News reported on the Voluntary Euthanasia Society NZ’s (VES) calls for government action following a recently published study that indicated strong public support for some form of lawful assisted dying. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this item inaccurately reported the findings of the study, and lacked balance. This was a short news report which accurately conveyed the key findings of the study to the listener. In the context of the item, it was not practical or necessary to convey the detailed nuances of the study’s findings. While the item touched on the broader issue of euthanasia, it simply reported on the findings of the study and did not amount to a discussion of the wider issue which triggered the requirements of the balance standard.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance
An interview was broadcast on Saturday Morning with a Swedish historian and author. During the interview, the presenter allegedly quoted former Finance Minister, Sir Roger Douglas. At the end of the item, the presenter also read out negative and critical comments from listeners about the interview. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the presenter’s statement, allegedly attributed to Sir Roger Douglas, was inaccurate, and that reading out the comments received was offensive. The statement was not a material point of fact in the context of the item and would not have affected listeners’ understanding of the item as a whole, which was focused on the views and work of the interviewee. Further, listeners were unlikely to have understood the statement to be a direct quote from the former Finance Minister, and would not have been misled. In the context of the item and the programme, the comments read out by the presenter, while critical and expressed in strong or provocative language, did not reach the threshold necessary to breach standards of good taste and decency.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Good Taste and Decency
In June, October and November 2016, Sikh radio station Radio Virsa broadcast four programmes in Punjabi on 107FM. The programmes included host and talkback commentary about a wide range of issues. The Authority received a complaint that these broadcasts contained threatening and coarse language and themes, and offensive statements were made in relation to a number of named individuals in the Sikh community, including the complainant. The Authority found that aspects of these broadcasts were in breach of broadcasting standards. The Authority was particularly concerned that offensive comments were made about named individuals in the local community, which resulted in the individuals’ unfair treatment and, in one instance, a breach of privacy. The Authority also found aspects of the broadcasts, which contained comments about women, were unacceptable in New Zealand society and in breach of the good taste and decency standard. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the remaining broadcasting standards.
Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Privacy, Fairness
Not Upheld: Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Alcohol, Balance, Accuracy
Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement
A Nine to Noon programme included a segment featuring UK correspondent Dame Ann Leslie. In response to the host’s question ‘What is on your mind this week?’, Dame Leslie commented on the British Labour Party, its leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Black Lives Matter UK organisation. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Dame Leslie’s comments constituted an attack on Mr Corbyn, denigrated the BLM UK activists, and were inaccurate and unbalanced. Mr Corbyn and BLM UK were not treated unfairly, as both could reasonably expect to be subject to robust media scrutiny as a consequence of their public profile. While the item was a current affairs piece to which the balance standard applied, the issues were approached from Dame Leslie’s perspective and listeners would not have expected alternative views to be given. The statements complained about were clearly Dame Leslie’s opinion, and so were not subject to the requirements of the accuracy standard. The statements about the BLM UK activists did not reach the high level necessary to constitute discrimination or denigration.
Not Upheld: Fairness, Balance, Accuracy and Discrimination and Denigration
An item on Sunday Morning with Wallace Chapman, titled ‘Abortion and Civil Liberties – the Thames Stand-Off’, discussed ‘pro-life’ protestors, Voice for Life, and their longstanding protests outside Thames Hospital. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the presenter was biased and that his treatment of the ‘pro-life’ representative was negative, unfair and unbalanced in comparison to his treatment of the ‘pro-choice’ representative. The Authority found that Mr Chapman’s treatment of the interviewees did not result in an unbalanced broadcast, as both perspectives on the debate were adequately put forward during the programme. While Mr Chapman’s questioning of the ‘pro-life’ representative was robust, his criticisms related to the Voice for Life group as a whole, and he did not attack the interviewee personally or come across as abusive towards her, such that she was treated unfairly. The allegedly inaccurate statement made by Mr Chapman represented his interpretation of the issues discussed, and as such could be distinguished as analysis, comment or opinion, rather than a point of fact subject to the accuracy standard.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness, Accuracy